The Horizon Christian girls have turned a corner.
The Hawks (9-10, 6-4 Big Sky) held off a determined Sherman County rally Wednesday night and got some clutch free throws in the final minute, and a big defensive stop at the end to knock off the Huskies 44-39.
The next night the Hawks overcame a 10- point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the South Wasco Redsides 35-33. That followed up come-from-behind win the previous week in South Wasco where the Hawks won 51-48 and the Hawks have now won four straight.
The pair of wins allowed the Hawks to slip past both the Huskies (9-11, 5-5 Big Sky) and the Redsides (10-9, 6-4 Big Sky) in the standings and move into second place in the Big Sky West.
Horizon Coach Stan Perkins said the first win over the Redsides in South Wasco showed his team that a district spot was there for the taking.
"In South Wasco we turned a corner and they realized that if we were going to go to district it need to start there," Perkins said. "They've learned how to compete. They've got that carrot out there now to get to district."
The Hawks built a 9-0 lead to start the game against Sherman, and the Huskies spent the rest of the half digging out of the hole, closing to within four by halftime.
Anytime the Hawks would begin to pull away in the second half, Krista Perisho of sherman was able to come up with a three-pointer to reel them back in again. The senior guard led the Huskies with 15 points and all of them came from beyond the three-point arc.
McKenzie Mellow led the Hawks with 15 points, with 10 from Trista Hicks and nine from M'Randa Aldrich.
A Perisho three tied the game at 26-26 with 5:55 to play in the third, but the Hawks were then able to figure out the Sherman press and go on a 6-0 run to regain the lead.
Perisho again hit a three to pull the Huskies within three points, but the Hawks then stretched the lead back to eight.
The Huskies got an 8-0 run to tie the game as Horizon again struggled against the defensive pressure.
With the offense struggling to close out the win, the Hawks picked things up defensively and did not allow the Huskies to score again.
A Mellow free throw put the Hawks back on top with 55 seconds left. Seconds later Sonja Rhodes was called for a flagrant foul as she got to Mellow to stop the clock. A shaken Mellow briefly left the game, leaving Hicks to shoot the free throws.
The freshman calmly hit both for a full one-possession lead. She came up with another clutch moment in the final seconds. The Huskies had one more chance at a tie, but Hicks closed out quickly on defense to block a three-point attempt and the Hawks hung onf the win.
On Wednesday, the Hawks were held to just one point in the third quarter, and appeared to have run out gas against the Redsides. They found some in reserve though as they marched back with a 16-4 scoring run in the fourth to steal the win.
"It's really been something to watch," Perkins said after the Sherman game. "It's great seeing all the girls stepping up."
Horizon, South Wasco and Sherman are all fighting for two playoff spots behind Dufur, and the Hawks' three wins in the last week give them the edge heading into the final week of the season.
However, if they are going to hold on, they will have to it the hard way. They have three games on the road, including at Dufur and at Sherman, games which will go a long way toward determining their playoff fate.
Perkins was confident, though, as his team has turned into a veteran squad before his eyes.
"We've got our momentum going now," he said. "And the best part is it's been a total team effort."